I can say with certainty, that our favorite place to vacation as a family is Walt Disney World. It’s no secret to any of our friends or family that we like to at least make one trip a year to Orlando to take in all Disney has to offer. Don’t get me wrong, we travel to other places as well, but Disney World always tops our list! We have been to the parks so many times that we don’t even use a map when we go, we just have an internal GPS that seems to navigate our Disney adventures. Not only do we visit annually, but we also make the most of every minute when we are there. We are not a ‘take a day off and rest at the hotel’ kind of family. We are the family that heads out to the parks when they open and stay until we close the place down (sometimes as late as 2 a.m.). Anyone who goes with us knows that our family is ALL IN when it comes to our Disney vacation and if they want to tag along, they’d better be ready! Why do we keep going to Disney time and time again, you might ask?
Fun. With four kids ranging in age from 2 to 13, there aren’t that many places that we can go where everyone is happy! But for our family, Disney World is that place. There is something fun there for kids of all ages (including the grownups), and Disney World has proven that to our family time and time again.
Value. I know that there are a lot of people out there who think that Disney is unaffordable, but I disagree! Disney offers vacation specials all the time and if you buy multiple day passes, your tickets are deeply discounted. Staying on property at a Disney Resort is very affordable, especially if you choose a Value Resort. When you bundle your room, park tickets, and meals you’ll always save big (especially if you’re lucky enough to be traveling during the free Dining Plan special Disney typically offers each fall). And, if you live close enough to drive like we do, you don’t have the added expense of airfare.
Resort Perks. We love to stay in the Disney owned and operated resorts. For starters, they are always well maintained and clean, plus being there just puts you in the Disney spirit! In addition, if you stay on property you get free parking at the parks (normally $14/day) or free shuttle service to the airport and parks if you don’t have a vehicle. But, the best perks are the Extra Magic Hours. If you have your resort key, you can visit a selected park each day either an hour before it opens or up to three hours after it closes to the public. Some of our most treasured Disney memories are late at night when the crowds are long gone and we have the place to ourselves.
Fast Passes. Disney offers a way to ride your favorite attractions without having to wait in long lines. Simply go to the Fast Pass distribution area at your favorite attraction and insert your park ticket. You’ll be given a ticket with a time that you can come back to ride and bypass the line. Other theme parks, like Six Flags or Universal Studios, offer this service for a fee, but at Disney World the Fast Pass is a free service to all guests.
Rider Swap. When you’ve got a baby, a big kid, and a roller coaster to ride, then there’s an obvious problem. Who’s going to watch the baby? Of course Disney has it all figured out. Here’s how the rider swap works. Go to an attraction entrance with your kids and tell them you need a rider swap pass. One parent goes on the ride with the older children, while the other parent stays with the baby. When they are finished with the ride, the parents swap and the other parent gets to take their turn riding with the older kids. The big kids get to ride twice and both parents get a chance to experience the attraction. Not to mention, the baby stays safe and sound! We have used this countless times and appreciate Disney offering this service to their guests.
Cleanliness. I’ve been to a number of theme parks and other entertainment venues in my day and none are as clean as Disney. Despite the number of people visiting the parks each day, they always manage to keep things looking top notch. Garbage cans are magically emptied, bathrooms stay clean, and you’d be hard pressed to find any litter on Main Street!
Customer Service. Disney is the most magical place on earth for a reason, the people who work there! They go out of their way to make your vacation experience a great one. Once during a pop up Florida rainstorm, a Disney cast member gave me their umbrella because I did not have one to cover my baby who was sleeping in her stroller. Another time, a cast member gave my daughter a lanyard full of trading pins when we realized she had lost hers! And once when we were at the Magic Kingdom at 2 a.m. with our exhausted kids, a cast member stayed on Main Street and visited with us to try to cheer up our crying child. You just don’t get customer service like that anywhere but Disney!
Food. Disney has a wide variety of delicious dining options. From simple snacks and counter service meals to exquisite three course meals from around the world, there is truly something for everyone. Want to really get the most out of eating at Disney? Purchase the Disney Dining Plan, and you’ll get a chance to enjoy all that Disney has to offer. Our kids love Character Dining because they get a chance to meet all of their favorite characters without waiting in lines, while also getting a great meal in an air conditioned restaurant!
Learning. While Disney parks are known for providing fun and entertainment, there are also countless learning opportunities to take advantage of. Epcot is full of educational attractions, from Living with the Land to the World Showcase and everything in between. Magic Kingdom has the Hall of Presidents and “it’s a small world,” along with a riverboat, just to name a few. At Animal Kingdom you can learn about conservation, the environment, and animals from around the world. Even Hollywood Studios boasts exposure to live theatrical performances and historical overviews of the entertainment industry! I always feel like my children have been exposed to countless educational experiences after our trips to Disney World.
Special Needs. As a child psychologist, I’m always on the lookout for how children with special needs are treated. Disney hits the mark again on this one. With appropriate documentation from your physician, you can obtain a Guest Assistance Card from Guest Relations to obtain special accommodations to make your child’s trip truly magical. From autism to dietary restrictions to mobility impairments, you will not be disappointed by the services that Disney has to offer.
I hope that you and your family get a chance to enjoy the Disney magic as much as we have. We can’t wait for our next trip!